“Balance is the key to injury prevention, as all running injuries are the result of imbalance. By maintaining balance in your body – front to back, side to side, top to bottom – you’re actively preventing overuse injuries.” – Sage Rountree
In order to fathom and get a deeper insight into a phenomenon, you need to observe any ‘natural evolutionary process’ and all your doubts will be cleared. In this case, look at the growth pattern of a new born till the new born starts walking correctly. Physically, he goes through different stages and learns to turn, to sit, to crawl, to stand and eventually to walk. From standing to walking with stability, however, is a journey by itself, mostly because of one component – ‘Balance’. A toddler takes a while to develop the ‘right balance.’ This is further substantiated with ‘stability’. It is only then that the journey of walking and running kicks off in our life.
As a runner, you can comprehend and appreciate the true value of balance and stability, especially when you are running and are airborne or have one foot on the ground and the other off. ‘Balancing and Stability’ go hand in hand. Though, it is seen that many runners work exclusively on the stability aspect but miss working as diligently on balance. Just a little extra effort and you can achieve both stability as well as balance.
Literally, balancing can be dealt with, at different levels of living, but in this blog, I am focusing on two important balancing postures which are intermediate in nature and need ‘keen attention’ with ‘stable mind’ to create that ‘flawless balance required to attain and maintain your posture.’ Practicing these postures will help you better understand your stance when you are elevated off the ground during your run.
- Stand in Tadasana with feet together and hands on your waist
- Move your right leg to the back so that they are 4 to 4 ½ feet apart
- Check that your hips are aligned and that your groin is facing the front
- Raise your arms up and above your head with an inhalation. You can rest your palms against each other or interlock your fingers. Ensure that your shoulders and neck remain elongated yet relaxed. Further lengthen your body with a deep and long inhalation
- Ears are alongside your biceps and arms and head are in one line
- Start leaning forward slowly with an exhalation so that your body weight moves in front and your right leg becomes light; (keep your chest elevated) (make sure that the whole body is working as one unit to lean forward rather just from the lower back)
- Rhythmically slide right leg close to the left one
- Hold for a second, inhale and then exhale to get your body parallel to the floor by raising your right leg up in the air, bringing your body in a T shape with your arms and right leg in one line but stretched in opposite direction
- Keep your abdomen soft and use it to stretch your leg and the arm further away from each other
- Left leg is tall and firm on the floor. Keep your left knee soft and left thigh fully engaged
- The hip of the leg which is in the air has a tendency to go up towards the ceiling; consciously make sure to get your hips in one line. This adjustment will immediately show its grip on the thigh of the leg which is on the floor (left leg in this case)
- Your head is in between your arms and you are looking at the floor slightly in front
- Hold the posture for 20 seconds with normal / deep breathing, come back slowly in reverse order and repeat with the other side
Tip: In case of tight hamstrings, bend the standing leg at the knee softly to avoid unnecessary pelvic rotation
- Core engagement is a must to lengthen and then strengthen. Weak core will fail to bring the firmness which, in turn, will make the posture wobbly
- Tight or weak abductors and rotators can make the stabilization of the posture difficult
A posture, which provides a unique blend of balance and stability
- Virbhadrasana III deeply stretches the upper part of the body. Along with the arms, elbows, wrists and fingers, there is an opening at the upper as well as the lower edges of the armpits.
- There is vertical extension of the spine which stretches the vertebrae away from each other, thereby, lubricating the discs and making our spine young and flexible. The sides of the body also get an equal stretch along with the spine.
- Strengthens thighs, thereby, improves the health of the knees
- Stretches the hamstring of the standing leg
- Works on strengthening the adductors
- There is knee extension on the leg in the air
- Aligning the hips takes away the extra pressure from the gluteus maximus and works as a stabilizer for the hips and the core, developing strength in both these areas
- Apart from the above, builds strength in the glutes and hip stabilizers while stretching the back of the standing leg and as a runner, you would definitely know the critical role played by strong and engaged hips in injury prevention management.
- Keep your knee bent in case of weak knee
Tips: Maintaining the stretch, push your waist (the one facing the floor) up towards the ceiling as much as possible. This will melt your love handles to get a perfect curvy waist.
- The posture is beneficial for those whose legs are damaged or afflicted. This not only strengthens the legs but at the same time works on engaging and strengthening your gluteal muscles.
- Regular practice releases groin or pelvic stiffness, a common problem among runners, thereby increasing the range of motion.
- Ardha Chandrasana tones the lower region of the spine and the nerves connected with the leg muscles.
Improves health of your Knee
- The standing leg on the floor would need to involve its thigh muscles optimally to bring the firmness and the stability in the posture which, in turn, will improve the health of the knee.
- Avoid in case of severe knee pain and during menstrual cycle
Performing these asymmetrical balancing postures almost immediately brings an awareness of differences in the strength and the flexibility between the right and the left sides of one’s body. Yoga restores balance and symmetry to the body, making it the perfect complement to running.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.